That’s right, you read the title correctly, I went on a bike trip. For those of you who don’t know me it might not sound that surprising since I do a lot of adventurous things, but trust me, I am not a biker. So the fact that I went on an 8 day, 160km bike trip last summer (July 2019) was definitely a surprise to me and something that I never thought I would do.
Taking up bike touring was a little bit of a forced hobby, but I ended up enjoying it quite a lot. I’m a girl guide volunteer in my spare time and have been volunteering in a Pathfinder unit (girls ages 12-14) for the past 3 years. The girls in the unit had gone on a short bike trip the year before, so we decided to take things to the next level with an 8 day bike trip around Victoria and Sooke.
Like I said, I’ve never really been a biker. I do own a bike, but it’s not the most ergonomic bike and New West (where I was living at the time) is super hilly, so I hadn’t used it very much. To prepare for the trip, I did weekly spin classes (something I’d already been doing as knee strengthening for hiking) and I started doing weekly bike rides around my neighbourhood. I got pretty into it and then before I knew it, I’d convinced Carolyn to sign up with me for my very first triathlon! I completed the triathlon (750m swim, 10km bike ride, 5km run) about a month before the trip and felt so accomplished.
But that’s all besides the point. Let me tell you about the trip. Our group of 10 girls and 4 leaders met at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal on the Saturday morning of the Canada Day weekend. We walked our bikes onto the ferry and aside from our support vehicle for food and gear, our bikes were our only mode of transportation all week.
On day 1, we rode off the ferry and biked ~24km to Kingswood Camp, which is a girl guide camp next to Elk Lake, about halfway between Sidney and Victoria. It was a really nice day, but we had a lot to learn about group riding and it ended up taking us about 4 hours to get to the camp. The Lochside Trail runs from Sidney all the way to downtown Victoria, so we spent most of the morning on a nice bike trail through Sidney, before exiting the trail to bike to the camp.
We got a little lost on the way to camp, but we eventually made it. There are definitely challenges with group riding as you don’t want to ride too close together or too far apart, and you can’t all cross the street at the same time. So we had a few kinks to work out, but we took our time and had a pretty good ride.
Since this was a trip with 10 teenagers, we kept to a pretty leisurely itinerary and enjoyed the camp facilities on Day 2. Like I said, the camp is right next to Elk lake, so we went on a short ride to explore the surrounding area, doing a total of 11km of riding. On Day 3, we packed up and hit the road again.
Day 3 was Canada Day and we wanted to celebrate with the masses in Victoria, which involved a 13km bike ride into downtown. Unfortunately I had to miss this ride as it was my turn in the support vehicle, but I raced the girls to find parking in downtown Victoria and meet them at the hostel where we were going to spend the night. We had a full 16 person room booked out for ourselves, so we set up base there before going to explore Victoria for the day.
I have to confess that I rarely celebrate Canada Day in the city. We’ve had a long weekend the last 4 years for Canada Day and I have a tendency to skip out of the city for the weekend to hit the mountains, so it was a lot of fun to actually properly celebrate Canada Day. We walked to Parliament from our hostel and caught some of the celebrations. We had a nice dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and caught the fireworks over the harbour.
On Day 4 we left Victoria for our longest biking day. We biked out of the city on the Lochside Trail and picked up the Galloping Goose for the rest of the ride. The weather caught up with us though and it was a wet ride out of Victoria. We rode along the trails in the rain until around noon, when we made it to Langford and found a Tim Horton’s to rest and dry off. It was okay biking in the rain so long as we were moving, but as soon as you stop, it starts to get really cold. It quickly became evident that we were going to have to make some serious changes if we were going to make it to Sooke in one piece.
Fortunately we had a support vehicle and it caught up with us at the Tim Hortons. We had all the pathfinders change into dry clothes, but it was definitely a lesson in preparedness. Some were well prepared with good quick dry clothes and waterproof outerwear, but others had to do a complete change of clothes and shoes. I changed into all dry clothes, but I opted to wear the same shoes because I wanted to have a dry pair when we arrived. Instead, I changed my socks and did the old trick where you line your sneakers with a plastic bag to stop the wet shoes from seeping into your socks. It totally worked.
Fortunately, the rain finally stopped while we were in Tim Horton’s and stayed away for the rest of the ride. So we had a quick bite to eat at Tim’s and then took off again, this time being able to stay dry. The Galloping Goose from Langdale to Sooke was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. Until then, we were mostly riding on side road bike paths or in many cases, just bike lanes. But after Langford, the Goose changes to a wide forested trail for the rest of the ride. We were able to ride long distances without having to worry about any road crossings and the trail was wide enough that the girls could ride two abroad and chat.
It was 4 or 5pm by the time we rolled into Sooke and found the camp that would be our home for the next 3 nights, Milne Creek Camp. Kingswood was cool, but I loved Milne Creek. It’s this old timey lodge right on the river. It’s 100 years old and has these little hammock beds that you fold down from the wall. The old porch has been converted into a sun room where we would eat our meals and it had a great view looking out over the river. From the sun room we saw so much wildlife. I saw 3 bears, a bunch of kingfishers, and at least a dozen deer throughout the 3 nights.
The rest of the evening was pretty much devoted to drying out our clothes. In total we had biked 44km. Day 5 was a more relaxing day for me. Half of the group got up early to go kayaking, but I was in the second group, so we had a bit of a lie-in and then a lazy morning. In the afternoon we went out to Sooke for ice cream and spent some time playing games in the field before returning back to our humble abode for a campfire (indoors).
Day 6 was much more eventful as it was my turn to go kayaking. We hired a 3rd party to take us out kayaking for 3 hours in the Sooke Basin. The first group hadn’t made it too far out as it was too windy to cross the basin, but while it was still windy when we went, they deemed it had calmed down enough for us to cross the basin. I’m not sure I agree with that assessment as it was rough crossing the basin in open water, but we saw some sea stars and cucumbers along the shoreline and then kayaked around sacred first nations islands where we saw a bunch of seals sunbathing themselves.
In the afternoon, we visited the Sooke museum and farmers market. We tried some tasty treats at the market and then spent a fair bit of time at Sooke karaoke night at the market! The girls had been planning their own Karaoke night for the evening and were thrilled to discover a full fledged karaoke machine at the market, so we had fun watching them all sing the latest Jonas Brother’s songs. We finished with a trip to the community pool to take the opportunity to shower as our cozy accommodations were sadly lacking any way of bathing.
Day 7 was our last full day and the route was a bit of a repeat of Day 4. Fortunately though, the rain stayed away this time. The girls biked another 44km back to Kingswood Camp, but I was on support vehicle duty again. I did meet them several times throughout the day though. We met for a picnic lunch in Langdale, and then again for an ice cream break closer to Kingswood. We had a bit of a party on the last night. We had technical biking shirts for all the girls, so we dressed up and made some virgin margarita’s to celebrate all the distance we biked!
Day 8 was our last day and it was a bit of a flurry as we biked another 24km back to the ferry terminal. We stopped again for ice cream along the way and arrived at the terminal just in time to catch our ferry back to Vancouver. In all, the girls biked 160km over the course of the week. It was a totally new experience for me and something I don’t think I ever would have done on my own. I can’t see myself taking up biking as my main form of adventuring, but it certainly made for a great trip and experience!